25 May, 2011

Sometimes what tastes like mold actually is mold

Last night I enjoyed a test-oriented after work with Simon Morley, Oscar Cosmo and Daniel Berggren. Quite a bit of time was actually spent on group dynamics and the value of working in a team where the members have mixed backgrounds and experiences. We also talked about the importance of having opportunities to discuss testing outside of your team in order to get fresh ideas as well as feedback on your own ideas.

Then came the mold discussion. We got on to the subject of gut feeling – sometimes you just know something is not quite right but you do not have any hard evidence. Or you have a weird incident that only happened once, and cannot be reproduced, but you know that it is important and should be investigated, and still no one can be bothered.

Recently I was in Portugal on vacation, eating good food and drinking great wines. One evening I ordered a piece of blueberry pie for dessert. The pie arrived, beautifully covered in blueberries and nicely presented on the plate, and I dug in. It tasted a bit funny though, sort of like…mold. But I was in a nice restaurant, recommended by a local whom I was having dinner with, the main course had been fantastic and the slice of pie looked delicious so of course I kept eating it even though I could not get rid of that nagging feeling that something was not quite right.

Finally, when I only had a piece of crust left, my eye was caught by something bluish and fuzzy. Of course the crust was moldy! Probably the entire pie bottom had been moldy, and I had eaten it all up. Not once had I stopped to question if that funny flavour really should be present, nor had I stopped to examine the pie more carefully. I was fooled by the fact that I had been told that it was a good restaurant, and that the pie looked good.

This happens in testing too. You might be testing a third party product that ‘is known to be stable’, or asked to ‘just have a quick look because we know nothing has changed’. And it looks so good! But still, deep down, you know something is wrong. Trust your gut feeling, be courageous and be persistent. Sometimes what tastes like mold actually is mold.

…oh, I survived the pie just fine, no unpleasant after effects. Still, I learned my lesson.


  1. Good example!

    Use all your senses and available inputs when testing - and gut feelings are a significant part - all that processing that's sometimes happening subconsciously is worth something. The trick is knowing when and by how much to balance that input with the other observable data.

    Also, if you think you can see everything then just ask yourself (as a check), "what's the testing silent evidence here?"

    On using instinct, compared to just the observable: I sometimes think of this (paradoxically in this case) as "testing with your eyes wide open vs eyes wide shut"

    Oh, and the aspect of group dynamics and group think - maybe there's another post there :)